Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Sugar Skulls for Dia de los Muertos

Last October, I did a pumpkin palooza program that was fun for the whole family. This year, my town was putting on a Halloween/pumpkin thing, so I decided to take my October in a different direction: I made Dia de los Muertos sugar skulls with my tweens. 

I took a lot of instructions and ideas from this website and I highly recommend you check them out. I didn't try another type of meringue powder - I just straight up ordered the one they recommended - but it worked like a charm so I'm willing to believe their expertise on pretty much everything here. 

Anyway, I bought myself one of these pans and the right meringue power and was ready to rumble. Oh, and sugar. LOTS of sugar. Like, a huge bag from Costco. 

I started prepping two days beforehand. I figured that would give me time to find alternate solutions just in case everything fell apart. The Mexican sugar skull ladies knew what they were talking about, though, and it all worked like a dream. 

So first, I made the skulls: 

I had 25 kids signed up for the program and I made 30 skulls just in case. 

Once they came out of the mold, I just let them air dry. 

The pan I bought would have allowed a front and back of the head, but I decided it was too much trouble to do all the scooping, etc., that the sugar skull ladies recommended for large skulls, so I stuck with just the fronts. 

On the day of the program, I made a bunch of frosting in bags and put out sprinkles and mini chocolate chips.

Rubber band the back of the bags! You would not believe how much frosting kids
can squeeze out the back of the bag if you don't! (Yes, this is bitter bitter experience talking, here)

Then I let them go at it. 

I wanted to give the kids a chance to make skulls themselves, so I bought one of these candy molds and had four kids come up at a time to make their own tiny skulls. We mixed the sugar, the meringue powder, and the water and pressed it into the molds. Then we popped them out and I put them out to dry by a fan. 

I was hoping the small size plus the fan would be enough to dry them in an hour, but results were varied. Some worked, some fell apart completely. I did feel it added to the program, though, so I would probably do this again despite the number of crushed skulls. 

This tiny decorated skull had "Princess Leia buns" according to its creator,
but I can't help but see Carmen Miranda. Just me?
All in all, it was a fun program that yielded pretty spectacular results. 

As far as consumability: I told the kids that everything was technically edible, but that it probably wasn't a good idea to eat it considering how long it had been out in the open air. They also learned first hand that the skulls were maybe not the cleanest things when they dug their hands into the sugar mixture to make the mini skulls. 

Feliz Dia de los Muertos! May your carpets remain frosting free!

Thursday, October 22, 2015


I was cleaning out the office closets at the end of the summer and came across two bags of stuffed animals that someone had donated. Which got me thinking. 

Then we had a town-wide garage sale event (I bought an enormous stuffed bear for the kids to read with for, like, $1) and I figured this was it: it was time to chop up those toys in to FRANKENTOYS!

The set-up for this program was quite simple: the toys, some good scissors, some needles and thread, whatever embellishments I had laying around, some extra stuffing just in case, and hot glue. The program was for 10 and ups, so I was comfortable that they could use the glue gun on their own. 

There was only one rule: if you cut something, you had to have a plan for it. No just ripping in to things willy-nilly. 

At first, it seemed like this rule wasn't going to be necessary. In fact, the entire program teetered on the brink of disaster when the girls started picking up stuffed animals, dubbing them CUTE!! and mourning any cutting that might have to be done. It didn't help that the newspaper reporter who had come (entirely of her own volition - I really am lucky! And that wasn't sarcastic - I consider myself very fortunate to have proactive photo takers!) kept saying "are you really going to cut that one?"

But then. Oh.... glorious then. 

Someone cut one. And then someone else cut another one. And then another one. And suddenly, the whole thing snowballed into one big cutting, gluing, un-stuffing frenzy. I found myself repeating the rule a few times to prevent mayhem.

Some of the results:

Headless by choice, thank you very much.
That tree? Is glued to his butt. Also, he's on wheels. 
That fish head is a measuring tape that comes out when you yank it.
Glorious does not begin to describe it. 
The head-swap twins. 
Cerberus. Three headed with yeti arms and a cape
Even I, the queen of anthropomorphising everything under the sun, got in on the action.

Especially when this yeti lost his arms to Cerberus.

Doesn't he look just completely bewildered and depressed about his missing arms? 
 I had to make it better.

So I did:

Less flummoxed, more "dear god, why!!"
Each participant ended up taking home 2-3 toys in the end.

And the thought of what might happen to their toys at home after this program... Yeah, it keeps me up nights.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Flannel Friday: Five Monkeys and the Crocodile

I was putting together a blog post of sure-fire-never-fail books that I use in Storytimes and beyond, and I ran across this flannelboard that I made nine years ago - my first flannel ever, in fact! And not only has it stood the test of time, but it's definitely a sure-fire-never-fail-will-get-everyone-involved-and-excited flannel.

And here it is.
The five little monkeys....

... and the crocodile. 

There are several versions out there (and when I originally did this one, I had the crocodile burp out the monkeys, but now I just go for it with the snapping and the chomping), but this is the one I use: 

Five little monkeys swinging in a tree
Teasing Mr. Crocodile "you can't catch me!"
Along comes Mr. Crocodile, quiet as can be
And he SNAPPED that monkey right out of that tree!

Keep going till you have no monkeys left. I always ask the kids how many monkeys we have after each verse and when we have no more (they either say zero or I supply the word when they say "none!" - yay vocabulary building), I say "well then I guess we'll have to do something else!" And we do.

I've occasionally used the monkeys without the crocodile to do the monkeys on the bed rhyme, but I find it far less fun. This is also a great transition rhyme between Caps for Sale (it has monkeys) and Snip Snap, What's That? (it has a crocodile).

Happy Friday!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Rock Your Locker!

Some of my tweens just started middle school this year which means: LOCKERS! So I wanted to give them a chance to make their own locker decorations.

This program is pretty flexible with regards to content. The only thing you absolutely need is magnets. Everything else is negotiable; that is to say, the projects that go on those magnets can be pretty much whatever you can make with what you have on hand.

Here's what we made:

1 - Duct Tape Envelopes

Wrap duct tape around a manila envelope and put magnets on the back. These can hold papers, notes... whatever you want. I cut my envelope shorter when I made it so that I could clearly see the papers sticking out of it, but that's a matter of personal preference. Bonus: you can use the top part of the envelope that was just cut to make another folder! Just tape the bottom shut.

2 - Clothespin Clips

We decorated clothespins and then put a strip of magnet tape on the back. These can hold photos, notes, or whatever you want. I had a glitter glue option available, but in the future I'll stick to the jewels, paper flowers, and sharpies. The glitter is just too much mess and takes too long to dry. And I like the flower one better anyway. 

3 - Laminated Letters 

I let the girls (I had only girls this time) use my Lakeshore Learning Die-Cut Machine and a set of capital letters to cut their names out of cardstock. Those were laminated and then magnetized. I had some nice cardstock designs and the girls really liked this one. 

4 - Whiteboards

This was the hit of the session. I had some 4x6 dollar store frames from another project (if you are buying them just for this, though, I'd buy 8x10 to make them a little bigger), so we removed the back, covered it in duct tape, decorated the frame, and put the whole this back together. I had bought some packs of whiteboard markers at the local FiveBelow, so they got one of those, too. 

They were also encouraged to decorate the frames themselves, which they did with gusto.

Magnets on the back and a whiteboard marker makes this a colorful locker whiteboard!

The timing is obviously important with this one and, if I do it again, I'll probably do it a little sooner in the school year just to get that group of kids who are excited by the new year and new school supplies (yes, I was one of them! So many clean new notebooks!). 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Preschool Science: Color

Preschool Explorers (my weekly preschool program that alternates between art and science each week) started up again this week and we began with a mix of art and science: color. 

First, I read Baby Bear Sees Blue by Ashley Wolff. I decided to start here so that the kids would have a chance to identify each color. 

After we had talked about each individual color, I brought out Mix it up! by Herve Tullet.
This gave us a chance to talk about how colors mix. The kids loved it (of course). 

I gave a brief explanation of the stations and then they were off. 

The Stations: 

1 - Color Wheels (Color Identification)

Take some printed or colored color wheels (preferably on cardstock or glued to cardboard). Add some clothespins with the colors written on them (in the appropriate color, of course) and you have a matching plus fine motor activity. One little boy liked this one so much, he wanted to take a color wheel home with him. 

2 - Paint in a bag (Color Mixing)

The kids squirted washable tempera paint into sandwich baggies and then squished the bag to mix the color. I showed them how to "paint" with their fingers by laying the bag flat and drawing on it with their fingers. 

3 - Color Books (Color Identification) 

I put out index cards, magazines, and crayons and the kids made their own color books. Shower curtain rings provided a way to keep it all together. 

4 - Watercolor Mixing (Color Mixing)

Three bowls with red, blue, and yellow, a bowl for mixing, and an eyedropper or pipette are all you need to make some color mixing fun! 

I provided coffee filters for the kids to see what color they had made (it's sometimes hard to tell with watercolors when they are in the bowl). 

Color most frequently made? Brown. 

5 - Pom Pom Matching (Color Identification)

I wrapped paper towel tubes with colored paper and added velcro to one side to make them stick to my flannel board. The kids would take pom poms and drop them down the chute of the same color. One little girl dropped with one hand and caught with the other. Others just liked the watch the pom poms shoot out. 

At the same station, I had muffin tins with circles of colored construction paper in them. The idea was to put the pom poms in the space with the same color. I found some scoops at Lakeshore Learning  that were used to pick up the pom poms. 

I find this particular program works well at the beginning of the year when some kids are just aging into the program and others have left for kindergarten. There is a range of levels of activity here and my barely three year old was just as interested as my four-going-on-ten year old. 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Flannel Friday Round-up!

Welcome, welcome, everyone! It's FLANNEL TIME!! (in my mind, that sounds like Sandra Boynton's Pajama Time!)

Kathryn has an inspired post for Mole's New Hole, a story by Linda Meuse. Cuteness, cumulative storytelling, and a pattern. I wonder if this sort of design/flannel engineering would work for the classic Pooh story...

Inspiration comes full circle, as Bonnie has a firetruck post inspired by Kathryn! Her colored firetrucks provide an interactive portion to storytime - something we all know the kids love.

For those of you doing back to school storytimes, or those just looking for a fun "five little",  Miss Jaime has five little school buses just ready for making.

We wrap up with Storytime Katie who has two posts for us! The first is a flannel version of the plant cycle - great for preschool STEAM. And the second is an adorable set of flower finger puppets.

Thanks to everyone for participating!

Happy flanneling!

To learn more about Flannel Friday, find them on Facebook or on the blog.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Fancy Nancy Party!

Bonjour! Welcome to our Fancy Nancy Party!

I had this program on a Saturday, advertised as a family program. I had about 40 girls, one boy, and their adults attend.

We started with snacks:

I found some plastic champagne flutes at the party store and filled them with apple juice. They looked awesome and added an extra special fanciness to the proceedings.

While the girls (and one boy!) were snacking, I read Fancy Nancy to them. We practiced saying "bonjour" and "merci" and "de rien". "S'il vous plait" was a little harder, but we all tried together and everyone made a good effort.

We then moved on to stations (with the option to get more snacks if you wanted).


1 - Elegant Tiaras 

I got the base and the strings for the tiaras from Michaels and then cut out a bunch of shapes from sticky-backed glittery foam. 

2 - Photobooth

This was my second attempt at a photobooth (I also did one for my Frozen sing-a-long) and it didn't work as well as I hoped. I see so many lovely posts about photo booths and yet for some reason my families just don't respond to it. I'm pretty proud of my swirled ribbon background, though. 

3 - Embellished Confections (that's fancy for decorated cookies!)

Plain sugar cookies, pink frosting, and sprinkles. Yum!

4 - Beautiful Bangles (that's fancy for bracelets!)

Lots of beads, lots of colored cord... this one never gets old. I've had people make entire sets of necklaces and bracelets. This is one of my favorite types of activities, especially when other projects are more complicated and take more time. This one is self-explanatory, self-directed, and requires focus and concentration which keeps kids from running amok. 

And it turns out a lovely product that depends very little on skills.

5 - Butterfly Wings

Nancy wears butterfly wings in the book, so we made our own, too.

 I had 12x12 pieces of cardstock onto which they traced the template for the wings. Some sparkly sequins and embellishments added glamour. Then we punched four holes in the wings, threaded the yarn through, and put the wings on. They were lovely.

 6 - Pom Pom Boas

I'm of two minds with this one. On the one hand, it was a LOT of work. I actually involved the circ staff in making the pompoms with me. Then I went home and made a million more myself. And I gave my assistant a whole bunch of yarn to make some as well. So it took four people a significant amount of time to create enough pom poms. But, on the other hand, holy cow, was this one popular. And they came out AWESOME.

What I'd change: I would start the pom poms earlier and get ready whip and not cool whip for the parfaits. Because: sadness (or at the very least total lack of cuteness): 

And I had such cute bowls and spoons, too!

Even though the photo booth wasn't anyone's favorite thing, it did add a nice decorative element. Maybe I'll do it again, but without the labor intensive background.

Why I'd do this again: I liked that the program worked for the princess crowd, but also for the slightly older girls. The average age at the Princess Party was about four and the average age here was about six. Also, the girls (and one boy!) had a blast and learned some French. Tres bien! A la prochaine!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Flannel Friday: Lisa Can't Sleep!

This is a story I've been telling for years and it's always a hit; I use it with my toddlers and my preschoolers and for family bedtime storytime. It pretty much never fails me. 

I tried to find the original book, but I made this flannel while at another library and I didn't write down the source (bad librarian! No biscuit!). I'm guessing it's this one: 

And the good news is: you can buy a hardcover copy from a used bookseller for $223.20! What a deal! (Update! The book is now listed at $222.64 so get your copy today!)

Ok, so maybe the book isn't around anymore. But maybe you have it in your collection! And either way, the story is worth telling, I promise. 

It starts with Lisa going to bed. She pulls the covers up and puts her head down. But Lisa can't sleep so she calls out "MOOOO-OOOMMMM!! I need my bear!" So Mom brings Lisa's bear. 

Lisa grabs her bear, pulls her covers up and puts her head down. But Lisa can't sleep ... she wants her doll. 

Then she wants her dog...

And so on and so forth until she's got her bear, her doll, her dog, her sheep, her cat, her bunny, her duck, her lion, and her ball. 

But there's still a problem. Lisa calls her mom one last time and says "There's no room in the bed for me!" So Mom takes everything back except the teddy bear. Lisa hugs it tight, pulls her covers up, and goes to sleep. 

A few quick notes on the telling. These things work for me, but lord knows we all have different styles and methods and there are far far better storytellers out there, so feel free to make it your own.  
  • I mime the pulling up of the covers each time and make sure my hands go higher and higher as the number of things in the bed increases.
  • When I say "put her head down", I put my hands together and put my head on them. You know, the bedtime/sleep motion. I then lower my head and my hands together just a little bit before opening my eyes with a gasp before saying "But Lisa couldn't sleep!". I always put my head to the right when I do this. When Lisa finally does go to sleep, I put my hands and tilt my head to the left.
  • I've alternated the object that Lisa first wants between the doll and the bear. Sometimes I'm feeling doll, and sometimes bear. Bear makes the most sense when I'm using it with a stuffed animal sleepover, but it can go either way.
  • Speaking of which, another great benefit is that this story is as long or as short as you need. The lion and the ball may not make an appearance with the wiggly toddlers, but the kindergartners are usually willing to go along for all of Lisa's whims.
  • Really milk the "MOOOOO-OOOOM!!!!" I even cup my hands around my mouth when calling out. It's everyone's favorite part. 

This week's Flannel Friday is hosted by Kathryn. For more information about Flannel Friday, visit the blog or check out Pinterest.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...